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How to Create an SEO Content Strategy (Follow the Ahrefs’ Framework)

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How to Create an SEO Content Strategy (Follow the Ahrefs' Framework)

SEO content is content designed to rank on search engines. So an SEO content strategy is your plan on how you’ll use that content to support your business goals.

At Ahrefs, SEO-driven content marketing is our main marketing type. And it’s been hugely successful for us, helping us grow our ARR consistently over the years.

This is a guide on how we’ve done it. Hopefully, you’ll be able to use our SEO content strategy as inspiration to create your own. 

The Ahrefs’ SEO content strategy

Our SEO content strategy can be summarized into one sentence:

We create and maintain high-quality, search-focused content about topics with business potential, search traffic potential, and ranking potential.

We’ve carefully crafted this sentence. Each word has earned its way in. If you remove any one of them, everything falls apart.

Let’s look at how our content strategy works. 

1. Find topics with search traffic potential

The goal of creating SEO content is to rank high on Google. That means you’ll need to target topics your potential customers are searching for. 

Here’s the quickest way to find keywords with search traffic potential:

  1. Go to Ahrefs’ Keywords Explorer
  2. Enter a few broad keywords related to your site or niche (for e.g., we can look for keywords like marketing, seo, keyword, and keywords for our blog)
  3. Go to the Matching terms report
  4. Filter for keywords with Traffic Potential (TP)
The Matching terms report, via Ahrefs' Keywords Explorer

From here, you’ll want to eyeball the report to find keywords your potential customers are searching for.

Sidenote.

Traffic Potential is the estimated monthly organic search traffic to the top-ranking page for a keyword. Since pages tend to rank for many keywords and not just one, Traffic Potential is a more reliable estimate than search volume.

PRO TIP

If your competitor is getting a lot of search traffic and it’s not from branded keywords, chances are you could target those keywords too. 

Here’s how to find them:

  1. Go to Ahrefs’ Site Explorer
  2. Enter your competitor’s domain
  3. Go to the Top pages report

This report shows you a website’s top pages by estimated organic traffic and the keyword sending the most traffic to each page. So using our blog as an example, we can potentially analyze moz.com:

The Top pages report for moz.com, via Ahrefs' Site Explorer

Learn more: Keyword Research: The Beginner’s Guide by Ahrefs 

2. Check their business value

A keyword’s business value, or business potential, is how easy it will be to pitch your product while covering a given keyword.

For example, if you own an online store selling coffee equipment, it’ll be much easier to pitch your own product for a topic like best coffee machines versus why does coffee make me sleepy. 

The keywords with higher business potential are the ones you should prioritize in your SEO content strategy. 

Here’s a cheat sheet for scoring the “business potential” of keywords:

A table showing how to score a topic's business potential

Scoring a keyword depends on how valuable it is for your business. So there’s no right way of scoring it—a “3” for you may be a “1” for others. 

3. Analyze ranking potential

Due to a variety of reasons, some keywords are harder to rank than others. So while that doesn’t mean you completely avoid difficult keywords (especially if they have business value), you should take ranking difficulty into account when targeting them.

At Ahrefs, ranking potential means it’s viable for us to rank in the top three with our available resources.

But how do we know we’ll be able to rank in the top three? We do this by assessing four things.

Backlinks

Backlinks are one of Google’s top ranking factors. It has even said this itself

Which means that the more high-quality backlinks the current top-ranking pages have, the harder it’ll be to compete with them.

To see roughly how many backlinks you’ll need to rank in the top 10 search results, check the Keyword Difficulty (KD) score in Ahrefs’ Keywords Explorer. For example, if we want to rank for the keyword how to make kimchi, it’s estimated that we’ll need backlinks from ~77 websites.

The Keyword Difficulty for the topic "how to make kimchi," via Ahrefs' Keywords Explorer

For a more thorough assessment, scroll to the SERP overview and check the Domains column to see the number of linking websites to each page.

The SERP overview for "how to make kimchi," via Ahrefs' Keywords Explorer

These numbers, however, only tell you about the quantity of backlinks. Quality matters too. So to understand link quality, you’ll need to review each page’s backlink profile. You can do this by clicking the number in the Backlinks column.

The Backlinks report, via Ahrefs' Site Explorer

Learn more: How to Do a Basic Backlink Audit (In Under 30 Minutes) 

Authority

Google representatives have said that Google doesn’t evaluate a site’s authority. Still, many SEOs believe that authoritative websites have an easier time ranking on Google and, thus, typically take a website authority metric—e.g., Domain Rating (DR)—into account when assessing ranking difficulty. 

The skepticism arises because SEOs believe that even if Google doesn’t have an internal website authority metric, website authority can still impact rankings:

  1. High-DR sites tend to have more high-authority pages (from backlinks) and, thus, internal links from those pages may help other pages rank higher.
  2. Searchers prefer seeing trusted brands for some queries.

If you think this makes sense and want to evaluate website authority, then you can check the top-ranking pages’ DR scores in the SERP overview section in Keywords Explorer

The Domain Rating for the top-ranking pages for the query "how to make kimchi," via Ahrefs' Keywords Explorer

If they are all much higher than your own DR, you may want to prioritize other keywords.

Search intent

Google knows why searchers are looking for a particular query and gives them what they want to see. 

For example, Google knows people looking for how to make kimchi want to learn how to make the Korean fermented dish. So the SERPs are—as expected—mostly how-to guides:

The search intent for "how to make kimchi"

To analyze each keyword’s search intent, Google your target keyword and analyze the SERPs for the three Cs:

  1. Content type – Are they blog posts, landing pages, product pages, or something else?
  2. Content format – Are they listicles, how-tos, recipes, tools, or something else?
  3. Content angle – Is there a dominant selling point, like how easy it is?

You’ll want to make sure you’re able to fulfill the search intent for the keywords you want to target. For example, if the SERPs require you to build a free backlink tool—like backlink checker—and you don’t have the capability to do so (such as a huge links database), chances are you’re not going to be able to compete for that keyword.

The SERP overview for "backlink checker," via Ahrefs' Keywords Explorer

Learn more: What Is Search Intent? A Complete Guide for Beginners 

Quality

If someone is testing 47 air purifiers just to create a blog post, chances are it’s going to be hard to beat them on content quality.

Wirecutter tested 47 different air purifiers to find the best

It’s no wonder they’re ranking #1 for a competitive query:

Wirecutter's page on best air purifier ranks number one for the keyword "best air purifier"

Therefore, to beat Wirecutter, you’ll likely have to review a similar number of air purifiers or do something unique and different. That will require a ton of time and resources. 

So for the keywords you’re targeting, you’ll want to make sure that beating the top-ranking pages on content quality is within your realm of possibility. 

After reviewing your desired keywords for the four attributes, you can give them a “ranking potential” score:

How to score a keyword's ranking potential

Learn more: Keyword Difficulty: How to Estimate Your Chances to Rank 

4. Create high-quality, search-focused content

Finding keywords that have business potential, search traffic potential, and ranking potential is the core of our entire content strategy. 

It allows us to create content that not only ranks high on Google but also directly ties into our business goals. After all, there’s no point in generating a ton of organic traffic if people don’t buy. 

When we have a list of keywords that fulfill our criteria, it’s time to create content. Specifically, high-quality, search-focused content. 

Let’s break it down. 

Search-focused means content that matches search intent for its main target keyword. You would have already analyzed search intent during the process of evaluating ranking potential. All that’s left is to match it.

For example, if you’re targeting the keyword how to drive traffic to your website, it’s likely you’ll have to create a listicle of the best ways to drive traffic. 

And that’s what we’ve done:

The SERP overview for "how to drive traffic to your website," via Ahrefs' Keywords Explorer

High-quality is subjective. Everyone’s definition will be different. At Ahrefs, we value content with R-E-A-C-H:

  • Real – Authentic and original. Brings something new to the table.
  • Experienced – Written by someone with topical knowledge and expertise.
  • Accurate – Facts backed up by trustworthy sources and opinions clearly expressed.
  • Clear – Explained well without fluff or jargon. Illustrations where needed.
  • Helpful – Truly solves the problem at hand. Not just words for the sake of words.

We try, as much as possible, to make sure all content we produce matches these criteria. (Do you think this post matches R-E-A-C-H? 😄)

If you’re looking for the exact step-by-step process on how we create SEO content, I recommend reading this post or watching this video:

Learn more: Content Creation: The Complete Guide for Beginners 

5. Maintain high-quality, search-focused content

We don’t just publish our content and forget about it. We actively maintain it. That means updating or rewriting our content often.

Why do we do this? A few reasons:

  • Your post won’t always rank on the first try.
  • Your post may decline in rankings.
  • For some keywords, search intent may change.
  • Information in your content can get outdated and, thus, affect quality.
  • The SERPs are not static, and people can one-up you. You’ll have to find out why they outrank you and beat them again. 

For example, we updated our post on free SEO tools recently. Look at how much the traffic spiked after we refreshed it:

The spike in traffic after republishing our post on free SEO tools, via Ahrefs' Site Explorer

How do we identify which content needs updating? Every quarter, each writer on the Ahrefs content team goes through their own content and identifies two types of posts:

  • Posts that need updating.
  • Posts that need to be rewritten.

Each writer then jumps on a call with Joshua Hardwick, our head of content, to discuss how these pieces of content can be improved. When the general direction is agreed upon, each writer goes back and rewrites their content. 

While this is our current process, you don’t have to do it like us. In fact, if you’re a WordPress user, the easiest way to see which content needs updating is to install our free WordPress SEO plugin. Set a target keyword for each page, and it’ll tell you if rankings start to decline.

You can then investigate and see if it’s because the content needs refreshing. 

Results from a content audit, via Ahrefs' WordPress SEO plugin

Learn more: Republishing Content: How to Update Old Blog Posts for SEO 

Final thoughts

Our SEO content strategy is not complex. In fact, I think this simplicity is deliberate. It makes it easy to follow consistently, which may help explain our success with it. 

Any questions or comments? Let me know on Twitter.



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Google To Upgrade All Retailers To New Merchant Center By September

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Google To Upgrade All Retailers To New Merchant Center By September

Google has announced plans to transition all retailers to its updated Merchant Center platform by September.

This move will affect e-commerce businesses globally and comes ahead of the holiday shopping season.

The Merchant Center is a tool for online retailers to manage how their products appear across Google’s shopping services.

Key Changes & Features

The new Merchant Center includes several significant updates.

Product Studio

An AI-powered tool for content creation. Google reports that 80% of current users view it as improving efficiency.

This feature allows retailers to generate tailored product assets, animate still images, and modify existing product images to match brand aesthetics.

It also simplifies tasks like background removal and image resolution enhancement.

Centralized Analytics

A new tab consolidating various business insights, including pricing data and competitive analysis tools.

Retailers can access pricing recommendations, competitive visibility reports, and retail-specific search trends, enabling them to make data-driven decisions and capitalize on popular product categories.

Redesigned Navigation

Google claims the new interface is more intuitive and cites increased setup success rates for new merchants.

The platform now offers simplified website verification processes and can pre-populate product information during setup.

Initial User Response

According to Google, early adopters have shown increased engagement with the platform.

The company reports a 25% increase in omnichannel merchants adding product offers in the new system. However, these figures have yet to be independently verified.

Jeff Harrell, Google’s Senior Director of Merchant Shopping, states in an announcement:

“We’ve seen a significant increase in retention and engagement among existing online merchants who have moved to the new Merchant Center.”

Potential Challenges and Support

While Google emphasizes the upgrade’s benefits, some retailers, particularly those comfortable with the current version, may face challenges adapting to the new system.

The upgrade’s mandatory nature could raise concerns among users who prefer the existing interface or have integrated workflows based on the current system.

To address these concerns, Google has stated that it will provide resources and support to help with the transition. This includes tutorial videos, detailed documentation, and access to customer support teams for troubleshooting.

Industry Context

This update comes as e-commerce platforms evolve, with major players like Amazon and Shopify enhancing their seller tools. Google’s move is part of broader efforts to maintain competitiveness in the e-commerce services sector.

The upgrade could impact consumers by improving product listings and providing more accurate information across Google’s shopping services.

For the e-commerce industry as a whole, it signals a continued push towards AI-driven tools and data-centric decision-making.

Transition Timeline

Google states that retailers will be automatically upgraded by September if they still need to transition.

The company advises users to familiarize themselves with the new features before the busy holiday shopping period.


Featured Image: BestForBest/Shutterstock

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Meta AI Introduces AI-Generated Photos to All Platforms

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Meta AI Adds AI-Generated Images to Social and Messaging Platforms and Expands Availability to More Languages and Countries

Meta just released multiple updates to Meta AI which brings advanced image generation and editing capabilities directly to Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp feeds, plus availability in more countries and languages.

New Meta AI Creative Tools

Meta AI is bringing AI generated and AI Edited photography that can be generated at the moment a user is making a post or sending a message with a new tool called Imagine Me.

Imagine Me is a prompt that can be used to transform an uploaded image that can be shared. This new feature is first rolling out as a beta in the United States.

Meta explains:

“Imagine yourself creates images based on a photo of you and a prompt like ‘Imagine me surfing’ or ‘Imagine me on a beach vacation’ using our new state-of-the-art personalization model. Simply type “Imagine me” in your Meta AI chat to get started, and then you can add a prompt like “Imagine me as royalty” or “Imagine me in a surrealist painting.” From there, you can share the images with friends and family, giving you the perfect response or funny sidebar to entertain your group chat.”

New Editing Features

Meta products like Facebook, Messenger, WhatsApp and Instagram now have advanced editing capabilities that allow users to add or remove objects from images, to change them in virtually any manner, such as their example of turning a cat in an image into a dog. A new Edit With AI button is forthcoming in a month that will unlock even more AI editing power.

Adding AI generated images to Facebook, Instagram, Messenger and WhatsApp within feed, posts, stories, comments and messages is rolling out this week in English and coming later to other languages.

Screenshot of a Facebook user adding an AI generated image into their post

Meta AI In More Countries And Languages

Meta AI is now available in seven additional countries, bringing the total countries to to 22. It is also available in seven more languages.

List of Seven Additional Countries:

  1. Argentina
  2. Cameroon
  3. Chile
  4. Colombia
  5. Ecuador
  6. Mexico
  7. Peru

Meta AI is now also available in the following seven additional languages:

  1. French
  2. German
  3. Hindi
  4. Hindi-Romanized Script
  5. Italian
  6. Portuguese
  7. Spanish

Advanced Math And Coding

Meta AI is making their most advanced model, Llama 405B, available for users to take advantage of its advanced reasoning abilities that can answer complex answers and excells at math and coding.

Meta AI writes:

“You can get help on your math homework with step-by-step explanations and feedback, write code faster with debugging support and optimization suggestions, and master complex technical and scientific concepts with expert instruction.”

Read the official announcement:

Meta AI Is Now Multilingual, More Creative and Smarter

Featured Image by Shutterstock/QubixStudio

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System Builders – How AI Changes The Work Of SEO

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Kevin Indig's Growth Memo for SEJ

AI is terraforming tech. The content and SEO ecosystem is undergoing a massive structural change.

Human-written content gains value faster for LLM training than for end consumers as the pure profit licensing deals between LLM developers and publishers show.

Publishers struggle to survive from digital subscriptions but get millions that go straight to their bottom line for providing training data.

Content platforms, social networks, SaaS companies and consumer apps coat their products with AI. A few examples:

  • Spotify DJ (AI-generated playlist).
  • AI Overview (AI answers in Google Search).
  • Instagram AI personas (celebrity AI chatbots).
  • Ebay’s magical listing (turn a photo into a listing).
  • Redfin Redesign (try interior designs on real house pictures).
Image Credit: Kevin Indig

The quality of machine-generated content (MGC) challenges human-generated content (HGC). I ran an experiment with my Twitter and LinkedIn followers: I asked them to choose which of two articles was written by a human and which by a machine – and they had to explain their answer.

Only a handful of people figured out that AI wrote both pieces. I intentionally framed the question in a leading way to see if people would challenge the setting or believe that one piece was written by a human if told so.

  • Not an isolated experiment: A survey of 1,900 Americans found that 63.5% of people can’t distinguish between AI content and human content.1
  • People seek help: Google search demand for [ai checker] has reached 100,000 in May 2024 (Glimpse).
  • Dark side: scammers use MGC to make money, as 77% of AI scam victims lost money.2
Search demand for AI checkerImage Credit: Kevin Indig

The quality level of LLMs pushes SEO work towards automating workflows and learning with AI, while writers will take content from good to great instead of zero to one.

Boost your skills with Growth Memo’s weekly expert insights. Subscribe for free!

How AI Changes The Work Of SEOImage Credit: Lyna ™

System Builders

Clients, podcasters and panel hosts often ask me what skills SEOs need to build for the AI future. For a long time, my answer was to learn, stay open-minded and gain as much practical experience with AI as possible.

Now, my answer is SEOs should learn how to build AI agents and workflows that automate tasks. AI changes the way search works but also the way SEOs work.

AI + No-code Allows SEOs To Automate Workflows

A few examples:

1/ Cannibalization

  • Old world: SEOs download search console data and create pivot tables to spot keyword cannibalization.
  • New world: SEOs build an AI workflow that sends alters, identifies true keyword cannibalization, makes content suggestions to fix the problem, and monitors the improvement.

2/ Site Crawling

  • Old world: SEOs crawl websites to find inefficiencies in internal linking, status code errors, duplicate content, etc.
  • New world: SEOs build an AI agent that regularly crawls the site and automatically suggests new internal links that are shipped after human approval, fixes broken canonical tags and excludes soft 404 errors in the robots.txt.

3/ Content Creation

  • Old world: SEOs do keyword research and write content briefs. Writers create the content.
  • New world: SEOs automate keyword research with AI and create hundreds of relevant articles as a foundation for writers to build on.

All of this is already possible today with AI workflow tools like AirOps or Apify, which chain agents and LLMs together to scrape, analyze, transform data or create content.

Moving forward, we’ll spend much more time building automated systems instead of wasting time on point analyses and catalogs of recommendations. The SEO work will be defining logic, setting rules, prompting and coding.

building automated systems Building workflows with AirOps (Image Credit: Kevin Indig)

You Can Learn (Almost) Anything With AI

I never made the time to really learn Python or R, but with the help of Chat GPT and Gemini in Colab, I can write any script with natural language prompts.

When the script doesn’t work, I can paste a screenshot into Chat GPT and describe the issue to get a solution. AI helps with Regex, Google Sheets/Excel, R, Python, etc. Nothing is off-limits.

Being able to write scripts can solve problems like data analysis, a/b testing and using APIs. As an SEO, I’m no longer dependent on engineers, data scientists or writers to perform certain tasks. I can act faster and on my own account.

I’m not the only one to figure this out. People are learning to code, write and many other skills with AI. We can learn to build AI workflows by asking AI to teach us.

Search demand for coding with AI is explodingImage Credit: Kevin Indig
Search demand for write with AI is explodingImage Credit: Kevin Indig
Search demand for learn with AI is explodingImage Credit: Kevin Indig

When you can learn almost anything, the only limit is time.

The Work Of Writers Changes

Against common belief, writers won’t be crossed out of this equation but will play the critical role of editing, directing and curating.

In any automated process, humans QA the output. Think of car assembling lines. Even though AI content leaps in quality, spot checks reduce the risk of errors. Caught issues, such as wrong facts, weird phrasing or off-brand wording, will be critical feedback to fine-tune models to improve their output.

Instead of leg work like writing drafts, writers will bring AI content from good to great. In the concept of information gain, writers will spend most of their time making a piece outstanding.

The rising quality work spans from blog content to programmatic content, where writers will add curated content when searches have a desire for human experience, such as in travel.

A mini guide to Los AngelesTripadvisor’s attraction pages feature human-curated sections. (Image Credit: Kevin Indig)

Unfair Advantage

As often with new technology, a few first-mover people and companies get exponential value until the rest catch up. My worry is that a few fast-moving companies will grab massive land with AI.

And yet, this jump in progress will allow newcomers to challenge incumbents and get a fair chance to compete on the field.

AI might be a bigger game changer for SEOs than for Google. The raw power of AI might help us overcome challenges from AI Overviews and machine learning-driven algorithm updates.

But the biggest win might be that SEOs can finally make something instead of delivering recommendations. The whole value contribution of SEOs changes because my output can drive results faster.

Survey: ChatGPT and AI Content – Can people tell the difference?

Artificial Intelligence Voice Scams on the Rise with 1 in 4 Adults Impacted


Featured Image: Paulo Bobita/Search Engine Journal

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